Attitude is everything and this album is punk and it is all attitude.
Sid Vicious could not play bass and does not on this record. Glen Matlock plays. Johnny Rotten can’t sing, and the music is only a shade above competent, but the sound—much like the album cover, which was banned in the UK for “Bollocks”—is thick, vital, and full of attitude. And when it comes to punk, attitude is everything.
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.
Each of these tracks is a sneer. Cursing. Middle fingers. Disdain for authority. You can hear the green on Rotten’s teeth and Matlock’s hold that back end. The drums are a military fuck you; the guitar is a sonic assault; the songs are about feeling shitty and loving it: Sex Pistols: fucking and dying. What is more punk?
However, the death, destruction, anarchy, acrimony, blood, semen, drugs, fire, squalor, grime, and rage are all affectation. Nothing on this record is genuine.
And that’s the power of attitude: even if you aren’t something, you can affect it, and people will follow you to the grave. The real punk is attitude incarnate.
If you read the history of the Sex Pistols, it has more in common with the Backstreet Boys than the Clash—put together by a producer to sell records and piss people off with an image so brazen no one could disregard it. And no one did. Not only did it sell records, it created icons. It gave teeth to punk. It gave anger. It is the defining punk record.
You might think I hate this record, from this review. I don’t. I love it. From “God Save the Queen” to “Anarchy in the U.K.” each of these tracks is one extended fight scene. They grab me in the gut and force me to seize up like a junkie infused with the ecstatic god of punk and power chords. I’m exhausted after this record.
And that’s the power of attitude: even if you aren’t something, you can affect it, and people will follow you to the grave. The real punk is attitude incarnate. It’s the feeling of someone digging nails into your ear drums and shouting until you’re pissed off. It’s that attitude of being better than others.
The Sex Pistols history isn’t punk in a lot of important ways. But this album, with its dick-wagging, milk-curdling smear of violent power chords and fomented rage; it totally fucking is. Why? Attitude. Is. Everything. Until there is Anarchy in the USA.